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Pat Bradley said her biggest disappointment has been the lack of advanced notice given by city and Near Southside officials. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Some Near Southsiders were a little miffed, and more than a little confused, when they heard the news about the “boutique hotel.” Proposed by the Dulabi family, who owns the property, local architecture firm Bennett Benner Partners, and California-based development company BOND Partners, the Magnolia Boutique Hotel has full backing by City Councilmember Ann Zadeh and Near Southside Inc., the 21-year-old revitalization nonprofit.

Full backing or not, some Near Southsiders are claiming they have not been properly kept abreast of the developments related to the hotel, a five-story structure with 138 rooms and a parking garage slated for the corner of West Magnolia Avenue and South Henderson Street.

Nearby Ryan Place resident John Fitzgerald said development of the otherwise empty space, currently called Magnolia Micro-Park, is welcome, but his main concern is the hotel’s projected size and height.

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“The buildings surrounding the [Magnolia Boutique Hotel] are three stories or less,” Fitzgerald said, referring to special form-based code guidelines that govern construction within the Near Southside.

Mike Brennan, planning director for Near Southside Inc., said there are two buildings on West Magnolia near the proposed hotel that are more than three stories in height — Magnolia Center (five) and Magnolia Medical Tower (six).

The code does allow for construction of six story buildings that meet specific requirements, but the code does not currently allow for the construction of hotels. The Dolabi family is seeking to revise the zoning laws to allow for construction of the hotel. A vote on the proposal by City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 1000 Throckmorton Street.

“It’s a historic district,” Fitzgerald said. “Putting a brand new hotel in that’s going to tower over the other buildings isn’t going to fit in with the area.”

Plans for the hotel place the building near but not within the Fairmount National Historic District, a 340-acre neighborhood that is the closest neighborhood adjacent to West Magnolia Avenue.

Fitzgerald and dozens of Near Southsiders recently formed a volunteer group, Don’t Shade on Magnolia, with the aim of raising awareness of what Fitzgerald said is the potential negative impact of the boutique hotel. His group has several members scheduled to speak at the January 24 City Council meeting. His group is also pushing its cause through an online petition that currently has 322 supporters and a goal of reaching 500 individuals.

The project’s lead architect, Michael Bennett of Bennett Benner Partners, said his firm has made transparency and community engagement a priority.

“I think there was some surprise from the residents that a six-story building is permitted” in the Near Southside, he said. “We thought a lot about this project. We didn’t have to post [online renderings] of the hotel, but I want to get this on the table now. I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

Many of the worries expressed by Near Southside residents, he said, are shared by his firm.

“It’s not in our interest if traffic [around the hotel] doesn’t flow well,” he said, referring to a top concern voiced by members of neighboring Historic Fairmount Neighborhood Association.

The hotel’s as-yet-unbuilt parking garage, to be leased from Near Southside Inc., will provide 150 to 170 public parking spaces to mitigate streetside parking problems, he said. The hotel is projected to employ 160 full-time staffers and contribute $25 million annually to Fort Worth’s economy, according to numbers provided by Bennett and Benner.

The boutique hotel has numerous design features that will help it blend in with the look and feel of West Magnolia Avenue, Bennett added.

“Along Magnolia Avenue, [the hotel] will have a bar and restaurant,” he said. “In the lobby, we plan to hang art from locals. And we plan on providing meeting space to the Fairmount Neighborhood Association. I don’t think everybody knows this.”

Pat Bradley, Fairmount Neighborhood Association president, said her biggest disappointment through the process has been the lack of advanced notice given by city and Near Southside officials. According to Bradley, the first posted signs informing the public about the zoning changes came up January 3, three weeks after the zoning commission voted on the proposal.

City planning manager Jocelyn Murphy said residents living within 300 feet of the hotel received mailed notices about the project last November, roughly three weeks before the zoning commission voted.

A physical notice was not posted on the property until much later due to “staffing changes,” Murphy said, referring to an unexpected vacancy left when one of her staff members moved to another section within the city. That employee, she said, typically “helped us out” with signs.

“However,” she continued, “since he was not working with us anymore he didn’t get the updated list with this last case.”

The city is “not required” to post a sign before a zoning case hearing, she added, noting that all state law-required notices were made.

Bradley remains skeptical about a plan that she believes is being rushed through.

“The decision [by the zoning commission] disappointed me,” she said. “I did not think things operated that way in Fort Worth. Maybe 200 people knew about [the case], and there are a thousand-plus residents here.”

Near Southside Inc.’s Brennan said he regrets a handful of unintentional communication lapses on his part, especially in early November, when he was discussing the hotel with the volunteer group Fairmount Neighborhood Preservation Committee over email. Bradley was not included in those discussions, he said, but he has reached out to the Near Southside community via social media and group meetings.

Roxanna Latifi, former president of the Fairmount Neighborhood Preservation Committee, said the email she received from Brennan early last November did not provide details about the boutique hotel but rather requested a meeting to discuss a “proposal.” Latifi said a more descriptive email would have prompted an urgent response from her preservation group.

Councilmember Zadeh said in an email that the current design for the hotel meets many of the Near Southside’s goals for mixed-use development.

“I have heard from some nearby neighbors who have expressed concerns regarding drainage and traffic,” she said, referring to the potential for increased water runoff when a large water-absorbing green space is paved over with concrete. “I am working on responding to those concerns and have directed staff to address those questions.”

If the zoning requests are approved by City Council, Bennett said construction of the hotel could begin as early as a year from now. Construction of a project of this size, he added, could take 18 months to complete. He expects some level of opposition to the hotel to continue, but he said his firm would not have taken on the project if his staff didn’t believe the hotel was the right fit for West Magnolia Avenue.

“This kind of boutique hotel fits the Near Southside,” he said. “It is not a corporate hotel. People get hung up on the word ‘boutique.’ It describes the attitude of the hotel and the high level of service. It’s not a Marriott or Hilton. It’s an individual business run by individual people.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information.

22 COMMENTS

  1. “trumpED Tower” shoved down residents throats. The rules don’t apply to them- no siree, not this bunch. Looks like a cookie cutter W 7th towering over Magnolia. Oh wait, maybe it’s Montgomery Plaza or Southlake? Maybe North Dallas? No Colleyville- hard to tell they all look alike. Brick plaza’s & throw some lights up in a tree. Gee, where’s my car?

  2. A luxury “destination” hotel is what I’ve heard it described as. Destination? Well, there IS that new Gus’s Fried Chicken there across the street. All in all, it’s a preposterous proposition, that was already decided on long before any residents knew about it. That’s the Fort Worth way it seems.

  3. if you don’t like it…..group together, buy the property and then develop it as you see fit. So many people are eager to tell others what to do and how to do it. I bet a lot of these same folks griping about this hotel development also claim to be “pro-property rights” AND anti-regulation also (as long as its their property)

  4. Not a first. Last year the city council ignored the recommendation of the zoning commission to allow the development of a 371-unit 5 story apartment complex at S. Adams and Oleander. If Near Southside Inc. and council member Ann Zadeh want something, seems they get it.

    The developer, Lang Partners, LLC, is also building the 322 unit apartment complex at Oleander and 7th Avenue.

    At 371 units on over 3 acres of land, the development would be among the largest in the area.

    • You’re only thinking of one of the definitions of “shade”. Thank’s for trying to be a literary party pooper though. [: Juice and cookies can be found on your way out.

  5. Regardless of the use, the size of the building is still ALLOWED, they have no bearing on the situtaion as it is out of the district. Maybe the NA would have known about it if it was in their district but they probably wouldnt have noticed since groups dont show up to challenge carports, changing porch columns or GIANT white houses with GIANT white garages being built in THEIR DISTRICT. Sounds like someone needs to call the wahmbulance as magnolia is just a bunch of food shops now anyway.

  6. I live on the other side of the alley from the the proposed boutique hotel – literally in the shadow of it – and I couldn’t be more pleased. The size of the project can be built by right – the variance necessary for the use is due to the wisdom of our zoning with the intention of preventing cookie-cutter hotels from going up in the Near Southside. We (the 8 of us who live behind it as well as our neighbors to the north, including all 3 who have front doors on Oleander) met with the developer twice. We asked for a couple of changes – which were made in less than 5 days. Given that a boutique hotel will have the lowest amount of impact on the amount of traffic, we truly are thrilled with this thoughtfully designed new development. If proximity to the project increased the way in which votes were counted, the opposition would likely find itself greatly outnumbered.

  7. People! This hotel will be six stories, not sixty-six. We are not talking about a towering monolith foisted on the community by some faceless outsider. The hotel is being designed by a long-time Fort Worth architect who is utterly committed to sustainability in his own hometown, and who is extraordinarily sensitive to the preservation of neighborhood integrity. You will not find anyone more devoted to ensuring that the project enhances the Magnolia district in all the right ways.
    Please. Do not mess this up.

  8. I’m a nearby resident and I’m excited to see this hotel be built. There’s a plan addressing any traffic concerns, the location of the building will not shade the street, and six stories doesn’t bother me especially because the developer has been in contact with its neighboring building owners who have expressed they are fine with this plan. It will provide rooms for people with family in the hospitals, jobs, and the people who stay there will be walking to and spending money at all the shops, local bars and restaurants on the street which is great for the economy. The size of the building technically isn’t up for debate as far as I understand- that’s all legal, the debate is whether or not it can operate as a hotel- as far as I understand. The developer seems to have taken special consideration to design the building to fit with other historical looking buildings in the area, it will house local art work and be a nice addition to the street in my opinion. Lastly, the hotel will have a security guard (I’ve heard) present, which is always nice to have on that street. Anyone who feels they need a safe place from various rif-raf can step inside this hotel if they are nearby.

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